There was no consensus from community members who attended last week’s public hearing for Dansville’s consolidation.


Ten months ago the process started with the selection of Center for Government Research to look at options and a grant for $50,000 to pay for it.


Scott Sittig, representing CRG, gave an overview of the study of options.


He explained that 77 percent of the assessed value for the Town of North Dansville is within the Village of Dansville (the village is part of the town, he reminded attendees).

There was no consensus from community members who attended last week’s public hearing for Dansville’s consolidation.


Ten months ago the process started with the selection of Center for Government Research to look at options and a grant for $50,000 to pay for it.


Scott Sittig, representing CRG, gave an overview of the study of options.


He explained that 77 percent of the assessed value for the Town of North Dansville is within the Village of Dansville (the village is part of the town, he reminded attendees).


At the same time, 84 percent of the population is within the village and the village spends 80 percent of the combined expenses of the two governments. That means any change to the status quo will impact taxes and services in both the village and the town.


At the onset the consolidation committee set several goals, among them reducing the overall cost of governement.


Sittig presented a range of alternatives, focusing on two: consolidating two governments by dissolving the village; or forming a new city.


Dissolution of the village can be initiated through two avenues. The first is through a citizen-driven petition. Ten percent of the electorate can sign a petition that would force the village to put the matter to a vote.


The other is through a process initiated by both boards. In this scenario, a full plan would be developed before citizens voted.


Creating a city is a more complicated matter; it requires legislative action in Albany. However, creating a city opens the door to preempting county sales tax.


By consolidating, the community could qualify for up to $370,000 in new state funding and merging services could realize savings to the local budget. Village residents would see the most savings on their property taxes. Sittig said the community would still be represented on the county board of supervisors and the change could spur economic development.


On the flip side, the most savings through consolidation would occur through personnel reductions, which in turn, affects service levels. Merging would shift tax burdens with the toughest hit coming to residents of the town outside the village.


Sittig said a best case scenario, involving the steepest cuts and the best of circumstances would save $840,000.


By creating a new city, village residents could see their tax rate drop from its current rate of $15.68 per $1,000 to $6.14. Town residents could see their taxes drop from $4.57 to $1.32.


In a town, the savings are lower. Village residents could save up to $5.01, but town residents could see a tax increase of up to $3.21.


Town resident Jay Griffith noted minority of town residents.


“It’s the tail wagging the dog,” he said.


He questioned what county services would be lost after a proposed city cut into the county’s sales tax revenue.


Other issues raised by residents related to a city’s control over local schools. Dansville Central School Superintendent Paul Alioto said any change like that would be years away and may never happen at all.


“The question is somewhat premature,” Alioto said.


Another concern among attendees was the lack of concrete numbers. Though the process was not intended to develop the concrete numbers behind consolidation, there were too many potential savings.


Sittig said those numbers will be available before citizens vote on either scenario.


John Scura pointed out that no new cities in New York have been created since 1942 and questioned the likelihood of getting a city charter through the legislature.


Sittig said the climate is favorable for consolidation.


“It’s a common theme across the state,”?he said. “People want to save money on their property taxes.”


Dick Fox asked what the impetus for consolidation was. Mayor Bill Dixon said lower taxes and cutting cost were the goals. He explained that while the town and city have a positive working relationship, the next step to real savings and government efficiency is consolidation.


Police became a heated point. While some residents want to see a local police force remain intact, the community can save $183,000 by contracting security with the county sheriff’s office.


The consolidation committee was scheduled to meet last night (after press time) to make a decision, but after last week’s meeting, members said they weren’t sure whether that would happen.


(Contact Les Bowen at 585-335-2271 or lesbowen@dansvilleonline.com)